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Health Bulletin


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  1. #1681
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Wealth, power linked to many mental disorders

    Researchers have found that inflated or deflated feelings of self-worth are linked to such afflictions as bipolar disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, anxiety and depression.

    "We found that it is important to consider the motivation to pursue power, beliefs about how much power one has attained, pro-social and aggressive strategies for attaining power, and emotions related to attaining power," said Sheri Johnson, a University of California - Berkeley psychologist and senior author of the study.

    In a study of more than 600 young men and women conducted at UC Berkeley, researchers concluded that one's perceived social status - or lack thereof - is at the heart of a wide range of mental illnesses.

    "People prone to depression or anxiety reported feeling little sense of pride in their accomplishments and little sense of power," Johnson said.

    "In contrast, people at risk for mania tended to report high levels of pride and an emphasis on the pursuit of power despite interpersonal costs," she said.

    Specifically, Johnson and fellow researchers Eliot Tang-Smith of the University of Miami and Stephen Chen of Wellesley College looked at how study participants fit into the "dominance behavioural system."

    Dominance behavioural system is a construct in which humans and other mammals assess their place in the social hierarchy and respond accordingly to promote cooperation and avoid conflict and aggression.

    The concept is rooted in the evolutionary principle that dominant mammals gain easier access to resources for the sake of reproductive success and the survival of the species.

    Recent studies have found that people living in developed countries with the highest levels of income inequality were three times more likely to develop depression or anxiety disorders than their more egalitarian counterparts.

    Similar results were found in a state-by-state comparison of income and mental illness in the US.

    For the latest study, 612 young men and women rated their social status, propensity toward manic, depressive or anxious symptoms, drive to achieve power, comfort with leadership and degree of pride, among other measures.

    In one study, they were gauged for two distinct kinds of pride: "authentic pride," which is based on specific achievements and is related to positive social behaviours and healthy self-esteem; and "hubristic pride," which is defined as being overconfident, and is correlated with aggression, hostility and poor interpersonal skills.

    In a test for tendencies toward hypomania, a manic mood disorder, participants ranked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with such statements as "I often have moods where I feel so energetic and optimistic that I feel I could outperform almost anyone at anything," or "I would rather be an ordinary success in life than a spectacular failure."

    Overall, the results showed a strong correlation between the highs and lows of perceived power and mood disorders.


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  2. #1682
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Most cases of cancer caused by 'bad luck'

    Two thirds of the world's cancer cases are a direct result of bad luck rather than faulty lifestyle or defective DNA.

    In a first such analysis, scientists say that cancers are driven by random mistakes in cell division which are completely outside human control.

    Scientists from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Centre have created a statistical model that measures the proportion of cancer incidence, across many tissue types, caused mainly by random mutations that occur when stem cells divide.

    They came to their conclusions by searching the scientific literature for information on the cumulative total number of divisions of stem cells among 31 tissue types during an average individual's lifetime.

    By their measure, two-thirds of adult cancer incidence across tissues can be explained primarily by "bad luck" when these random mutations occur in genes that can drive cancer growth, while the remaining third are due to environmental factors and inherited genes.

    "All cancers are caused by a combination of bad luck, the environment and heredity, and we've created a model that may help quantify how much of these three factors contribute to cancer development," says Bert Vogelstein, the Clayton Professor of Oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

    They found that 22 cancer types could be largely explained by the "bad luck" factor of random DNA mutations during cell division. The other nine cancer types had incidences higher than predicted by "bad luck" and were presumably due to a combination of bad luck plus environmental or inherited factors.

    "We found that the types of cancer that had higher risk than predicted by the number of stem cell divisions were precisely the ones you'd expect, including lung cancer, which is linked to smoking; skin cancer, linked to sun exposure and forms of cancers associated with hereditary syndromes," says Vogelstein.

    "This study shows that you can add to your risk of getting cancers by smoking or other poor lifestyle factors. However, many forms of cancer are due largely to the bad luck of acquiring a mutation in a cancer driver gene regardless of lifestyle and heredity factors. The best way to eradicate these cancers will be through early detection, when they are still curable by surgery," adds Vogelstein.

    Cancer kills around six lakh people in India with 71% of these deaths occurring in people aged 30-69 years. A Lancet study earlier had said that cancer deaths accounted for 6% of deaths across all ages, but among the 30-69 years age group, this rose to 8%.

    Tobacco-related cancers represented 42% of male and 18.3% of female cancer deaths at ages 30-69 years. A 30-year old man in north-eastern India had the highest chance (112%) of dying from cancer before 70 years of age.

    "Cancer-free longevity in people exposed to cancer-causing agents, such as tobacco, is often attributed to their 'good genes,' but the truth is that most of them simply had good luck," said Vogelstein, who cautions that poor lifestyles can add to the bad luck factor in the development of cancer.



    The implications of their model range from altering public perception about cancer risk factors to the funding of cancer research, they say.

    "If two-thirds of cancer incidence across tissues is explained by random DNA mutations that occur when stem cells divide, then changing our lifestyle and habits will be a huge help in preventing certain cancers, but this may not be as effective for a variety of others," says bio mathematician Cristian Tomasetti, an assistant professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins.

    "We should focus more resources on finding ways to detect such cancers at early, curable stages," he adds.



    It was well-known, Vogelstein notes that cancer arises when tissue-specific stem cells make random mistakes, or mutations, when one chemical letter in DNA is incorrectly swapped for another during the replication process in cell division. The more these mutations accumulate, the higher the risk that cells will grow unchecked, a hallmark of cancer.

    To sort out the role of such random mutations in cancer risk, the Johns Hopkins scientists charted the number of stem cell divisions in 31 tissues and compared these rates with the lifetime risks of cancer in the same tissues among Americans. From this so-called data scatterplot, Vogelstein determined the correlation between the total number of stem cell divisions and cancer risk to be 0.804. Mathematically, the closer this value is to one, the more stem cell divisions and cancer risk are correlated.

    "Our study shows, in general, that a change in the number of stem cell divisions in a tissue type is highly correlated with a change in the incidence of cancer in that same tissue," says Vogelstein. One example, he says, is in colon tissue, which undergoes four times more stem cell divisions than small intestine tissue in humans. Likewise, colon cancer is much more prevalent than small intestinal cancer.


  3. #1683
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    After vedic aeronautics, vedic surgery

    Indians had realized the importance of anatomy for accurate surgery and were dissecting the human body long before the Greeks, a paper to be presented in the 102nd Indian Science Congress claims. There are many other such papers, lined up for presentation at the Congress, asserting the significance of exploring Hindu epics to understand the ancient world.

    These papers, based on translation and interpretation of various historical documents and texts in Sanskrit, some of which were also published, claim ancient Indians followed scientific principles for building houses and aircraft construction, and developed 20 types of sharp instruments and 101 types of blunt instruments required for surgery made of iron, many of which resemble modern surgical instruments.



    "So far, Sanskrit is essentially considered a language of religion and philosophy but the fact is that it also talks about science including physics, chemistry, geography, geometry etc. There is a lot of scientific information available in these texts and historical documents that we want to explore," says Gauri Mahulikar, associate professor and head of department of Sanskrit at Mumbai University.



    Mahulikar is the coordinator for the symposia 'Ancient Sciences through Sanskrit' during the Indian Science Congress, hosted by Mumbai University from January 3rd to 7th. The session is scheduled to be inaugurated by Union minister of state Prakash Javadekar.

    The symposia and the papers could be of significance as it comes at a time when the BJP-led government is keen to make Sanskrit a compulsory language in school curriculum of Kendriya Vidyalayas.



    The papers reveal ancient Indians performed complicated medical procedures such as cranial, ophthalmic and even plastic surgeries. They even extracted dead fetuses from wombs and even removed live fetuses from dead mothers, one of the papers by Dr Ashwin Sawant, an ayurvedic physician, claims.

    "Susrut Sahita is the first text of surgery, created not later than 1500 BC in India. References of advanced surgeries are also found in Rigveda considered as first text of universe, created not later than 6000 B.C," an extract from Dr Sawant's paper says. According to the paper, Indian method of human dissection seems better, since it could make visible, minute structures lying just beneath the skin, which is not possible, even in modern methods of dissection.

    Similarly, from the many historical documents found it is evident that scientist-sages Agastya and Bharadwaja had developed the lore of aircraft construction. A paper, to be presented by retired principal of pilot training centre Anand Bodas and Ameya Jadhav, lecturer at Swami Vivekanand International School and Junior College claims aviation technology in ancient India is not just a myth.

    Another paper reveals the scientific principles that were followed in ancient India in building structures.

    According to Mahulikar, among ancient Sanskrit texts, there is a separate book for every science. While some of these texts are printed, many of these texts have already been translated into English and Hindi.


  4. #1684
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Cholera bacterium kills other bacteria to steal their DNA

    Scientists have discovered the unconventional way the cholera bacterium stabs and kills other bacteria to steal their DNA, making it potentially more virulent.

    Cholera is caused when the bacterium Vibrio cholerae (V cholerae) infects the small intestine. The disease is characterised by acute watery diarrhea resulting in severe dehydration.

    Scientists from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland, have now demonstrated that V cholerae uses a tiny spear to stab and kill neighbouring bacteria - even of its own kind - and then steal their DNA.

    This mechanism, known as "horizontal gene transfer," allows the cholera bacterium to become more virulent by absorbing the traits of its prey.

    Melanie Blokesch at EPFL found how V cholerae uses a predatory killing device to compete with surrounding bacteria and steal their DNA. This molecular killing device is a spring-loaded spear that is constantly shooting out.

    This weapon is called the "type VI secretion system" (T6SS) and is known to exist in many types of bacteria.

    When V cholerae comes close to other bacteria, the spear punches a hole into them, leaving them to die and release their genetic material, which the predator pulls into itself.

    This spear-killing, predatory behaviour is triggered by the bacterium's environment. The cholera bacterium naturally lives in water, such as the sea, where it attaches onto small planktonic crustaceans. There, it feeds on the main component of their shells: a sugar polymer called chitin.

    When chitin is available, V cholerae goes into an aggressive survival mode called "natural competence." When in this mode, V cholerae attacks neighbouring bacteria with its spear - even if they are of the same species.

    Blokesch's lab tested different strains of the bacterium from all over the world, most of which have been implicated in the 7th cholera pandemic, which began in Indonesia in the 1960's, spread rapidly to Asia, Europe, and Latin America, and still affects populations today.

    The researchers grew these bacteria on chitin surfaces that simulated their natural habitat on crustaceans.

    They found that the tiny spear is not only part of V cholerae's natural survival system, but it also contributed to the transfer of genes that could make the bacterium more resistant to threats, even to antibiotics.

    "Using this mode of DNA acquisition, a single V cholerae cell can absorb fragments containing more than 40 genes from another bacterium," said Blokesch.

    The importance of this study lies in the fact that horizontal gene transfer is a widespread phenomenon in bacteria, and it contributes to the dispersal of virulence factors and antibiotic resistances, researchers said.

    In addition, the chitin-mediated activation of the spear-killing device most likely renders the bacterium more dangerous to patients when they ingest it, as this molecular spear might also kill protective bacteria in the human gut.

    The study is published in the journal Science.


  5. #1685
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Minor fever with breathlessness can be swine flu: IMA

    The Indian Medical Association (IMA) Friday issued a set of guidelines to tackle swine flu and urged citizens not to neglect minor cases of fever with breathlessness.

    It said in its guidelines that the matter is important as the current seasonal influenza vaccines are not expected to provide protection against human infection with avian or swine flu viruses.

    "However, reducing seasonal influenza risk through vaccination might reduce the theoretical risk for recombination of influenza viruses of animal origin," it said in a statement.

    The guidelines were launched by IMA president Marthanda Pillai and secretary general K.K. Aggarwal here Thursday.

    According to the IMA, a total of 10 deaths in Hyderabad and one death in Delhi occurred due to swine flu so far.

    Delhi has reported 39 cases of Swine flu since last year.

    According to the IMA, swine flu can have symptoms like fever, coryza, cough, sore throat and body aches. It may last for one-two weeks.

    However, occasionally, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and rash may also occur.

    The government has designated both government and private labs to test the presence of virus, it said.

    "The government has also set a control room - 23061469. People, for any kind of information on swine flu, can contact it," it said.

    It said that swine flu can be prevented by adhering to cough and respiratory hygiene.

    One should avoid coughing over hands or handkerchief and use a disposable paper instead.

    "Frequently hand wash should be done if hands get contaminated with any secretions," it said.

    "People should avoid touching face, mouth and nose with dirty hands, avoid touching or having close proximity with any person who is coughing or has cold, and avoid shaking hands. Patients, who have symptoms should stay indoors and avoid crowded places," it cautions.


  6. #1686
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    44% advised unnecessary surgery: 2nd opinion-givers

    Is surgery necessary? A city-based medical second opinion services centre has found an uncomfortable answer to this question that traumatizes every family whose member has been advised surgery. Almost 44% of the 12,500 patients for whom surgery was recommended were advised against it by their second opinion consultants.

    Unnecessary surgery is not new in medicine. Orthopaedic surgeons in the United States were, four months ago, accused of overdoing total knee replacement surgeries by almost a third. Closer home, doctors in Andhra Pradesh rampantly performed hysterectomies in 2010 to get a higher payoff from government medical insurance schemes.

    MediAngels, a second opinion centre based out of Navi Mumbai, recently studied its first 20,000 consultations over the past two years and found several people were advised "unnecessary surgeries" by their primary doctors.



    Take the case of Kandivli resident Gaurav Sharma whose uncle was advised cardiac surgery due to a severe left shoulder pain. "We were told to undergo surgery the next day itself. Our entire family went into a tizzy wondering what to do." He logged into MediAngel's online chat with a cardiac surgeon in Delhi who looked at the ECG and said the patient only had an orthopaedic problem. "I then sought an opinion from a shoulder specialist based in the US, who diagnosed that my uncle's shoulder and arm bones were not aligned properly. He showed my uncle some shoulder exercises on an online chat," said Sharma and added that his uncle's pain has considerably reduced.



    Dr Debraj Shome, a surgeon who owns MediAngels, said his centre's data showed poor adherence to surgery guidelines across all specialties. "We found that the discrepancy in opinions (between the patient's doctors and the second opinion-giver) was highest in heart problems at 55%," said Dr Shome. Knee replacements and hysterectomies were second at 48% while infertility was third on the list with 45% discrepancy in opinions. "We have doctors seeking opinions if they themselves are asked to undergo surgery. This says a lot about the trend," he added.



    "This data shows that we have reason to be concerned," said liver surgeon Dr Sanjay Nagral, who is on the editorial board of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics. "Everything in Indian healthcare is increasingly getting monetized. This is an indicator of that malaise."

    Another surgeon who didn't want to be named said this was indicative of "market medicine".

    "Doctors are like daily wage earners in India. They are paid on the basis of the 'business' they bring to a hospital. Obviously, a surgeon will be tempted to recommend surgery," he said. A doctor who works for a public hospital said an audit of government-run insurance schemes would reveal a similar trend of unnecessary surgeries. "Most money that the government pumps in for schemes such as the Rajiv Gandhi Arogya Yojana in Maharashtra is given to private hospitals that have been drafted in to do such procedures. One must investigate why public hospitals don't get as many surgeries or as much money as the private ones do in such schemes?" the doctor said.

    Some specialists, though, say there is a logical reason for the discrepancy in MediAngel's data. "At present, there are many non-medical ways that compete with surgery as a form of treatment. So, in India, it is more a case of whom the patient goes first for consultation—whether a surgeon or a medicine specialist," said Dr Nagral.

    In the United Kingdom, for instance, there are tumour boards in hospitals that comprise a radiotherapist, a surgeon and medical specialist who decide together on the treatment plan for a patient. "Radiation is emerging as a competitor to surgery in many cancers. Hence, instead of offering independent opinion from doctors, many hospitals there offer a tumour board's opinion," he said. In the US where healthcare is mainly paid for by insurance companies, some states require two opinions on the need for a surgery.

    Incidentally, at a deliberation organized by the World Bank in July 2014, it was concluded that 'medical overuse' is emerging as a serious issue in India, especially as more people can afford to pay for medical interventions due to increasing access to insurance cover. "Individuals in India with private voluntary health insurance are two to three times more likely to be hospitalized than the national average. Many of these interventions deliver only marginal benefits and can actually harm the patients, leading to unnecessary suffering, especially among the frail and elderly," said the World Bank document.


  7. #1687
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Assam violence: 7-year-old boy Talla Tudu who was shot 7 times survives

    Seven-year-old Talla Tudu, who was received seven bullets sprayed from NDFB(S) guns, is out of hospital but is yet to overcome the trauma that he went through. With one more bullet still lodged in his arm pit, he will be returning to hospital soon for the last extraction.

    Talla, who lost his mother in the massacre by Bodo militants on December 23, is recuperating at a shelter home run by Helpaid, a local nonprofit organization. His father is also there by his side.

    Though weak, he is slowly responding to treatment but the scars of mental trauma remains fresh. The bullet marks on his right temple, near one of his ears, two on his right hands, two on his armpit, and one on his buttocks, reminds him and others alike of the gruesome attack carried out by Bodo militants.

    Talla's survival is a miracle. He was brought from the remote Pakriguri in Kokrajhar district in a critical condition to Guwahati medical College and Hospital here, about 350 km away. He was immediately operated upon and was released from the hospital on December 28. His mother died on way to the hospital.

    "I have my other children back at the village. My wife was cremated on December 25. She died on the way to hospital. I was at the back of the house when the incident happened," said Som Tudu, the father.

    Talla witnessed his mother shot at by NDFB gunmen during the massacre of December 23. As his family members was elsewhere Talla was few meters away from his mother who was drying hay in the front yard when bullets touched him.

    Tudu was one of the 17 injured who were brought at the GMCH on the night of December 24. He was discharged on December 28 and brought to the shelter home by an adivasi organization. Doctors at the shelter home are dressing his wounds and waiting for him to gain some strength so that the lodged bullet can be removed.

    "His father looks helpless and is completely dependent on us. He cannot think of anything other than his son. Tala looks scared. He lost his mother. To think about the immediate future is not in the cards as of now," said Edward Murro, one of the helpers looking after the father and son.


  8. #1688
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    It takes three months to heal a broken heart!

    Scientists have found that it takes around three months to get over a breakup.

    A study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that 11 weeks after experiencing a breakup, 71 per cent of participants were able to view their relationship in a positive light.

    They agreed with positive statements, such as 'I have learned a lot about myself', 'I have grown as a person' and 'I am more goal-oriented'.

    The study included an online survey of 1,404 university students between the ages of 18 and 25 who had experienced the termination of a significant relationship in the past 12 months, 'Elite Daily' reported.

    Researchers found that the study results held true whether the person was the dumper or the dumpee.

    A previous study in the Psychological Science Journal found that our heart rates actually slow down when we're unexpectedly rejected.

    Neuroimaging studies have found that rejection, even by a stranger, activates similar regions in the brain when we experience physical pain.


  9. #1689
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Transplants for kids yet to take off in India

    The state organ transplant programme is all set to come up with guidelines to facilitate pediatric cadaver organ donations (PCOD), in an effort to save the countless number of children who die in the state without getting an organ for transplantation.

    The recent case in which a two-year-old brain dead child from Bangalore donated his heart to a Russian child with a congenital heart problem warmed the hearts of many. However, doctors say that the concept of PCOD, which is picking up in a big way abroad, is still very rare in India due to lack of a mechanism to identify brain death, shortage of trained transplant coordinators and organ procurement organisations. Several children suffering from heart and lung issues die at a young age without getting organs, merely owing to the hurdles faced in facilitating pediatric donations.

    In a bid to overcome this problem, the state health department is in the process of forming guidelines to perform PCOD efficiently. "We have already consulted with neurologists and pediatricians about this and soon we will have a proper system," state transplant coordinator Dr J Amalorpavanathan said. He said there are very few hospitals catering exclusively to children and there is no maintenance of files on brain death among children. "Also, there is a lack in pediatric organ donations. Most of our adult donors are victims of road accidents, but there are less number of kids who are victims to road accidents," he said. While the adult donor programme has a clear cut guideline, pediatric donations lack it. "We are working on it and we are planning to convene a meeting shortly with pediatricians," said Dr Amal.

    The biggest challenge in promoting PCOD is the absence of a system and lack of co-ordination between hospitals, said director of cardiac sciences, Fortis Malar Hospital, Dr K R Balakrishnan. He said there were no assist devices designed for children with heart and lung problems and mostly transplants are the only option. "There is a high demand for organs, especially for children with congenital ailments, but there are not enough donations," he said.

    Pediatric cadaver donors include children with head trauma, accidents, spontaneous massive intracranial hemorrhage, primary brain tumor or drug intoxication. He also pointed out that the difficulty in performing pediatric transplants is finding a match, as the size of the organs should be appropriate. "There can be a mismatch of size up to 20%. So if the patient is a child, then the donor should also be a child," he said.

    Transplant surgeon at Sri Ramachandra Medical Center, Dr Sunil Shroff said the scenario is slowly changing. 'Earlier no one did pediatric transplants. Now we have a fair number of kidney and liver transplants among kids, but heart and lung transplants are still a problem," he said. He said, when it comes to pediatric donations, living donors were the way forward as adults can give a part of their liver or a kidney to save a child's life. Dr Shroff also said counselling parents of brain dead children was a more daunting task compared to convincing the family of brain dead adults. "This is where awareness comes into play. Parents who are informed about the concept of organ donations are keener to donate," he said.


  10. #1690
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    A pill to trick body into losing weight

    In a breakthrough that could help in the global fight against obesity, scientists have developed a pill that tricks the body into thinking it has consumed calories, causing it to burn fat.

    Developed by researchers from the California-based Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the compound effectively stopped weight gain, lowered cholesterol, controlled blood sugar and minimized inflammation in mice, making it an excellent candidate for a rapid transition into human clinical trials.

    In addition, when given a daily dose of the new pill, the mice had a rise in body temperature — which signals an increase in metabolism — and some deposits of white fat in their bodies converted into a healthier, energy-burning beige form of the tissue.

    Unlike most diet pills on the market, this new pill, called fexaramine, doesn't dissolve into the blood like appetite suppressants or caffeine-based diet drugs, but remains in the intestines, causing fewer side effects.

    "This pill is like an imaginary meal," says Ronald Evans, director of Salk's Gene Expression Laboratory. "It sends out the same signals that normally happen when you eat a lot of food, so the body starts clearing out space to store it. But there are no calories and no change in appetite." Evans' laboratory has spent nearly two decades studying the farensoid X receptor (FXR), a protein that plays a role in how the body releases bile acids from the liver, digests food and stores fats and sugars.

    The human body turns on FXR at the beginning of a meal, Evans and others have shown, to prepare for an influx of food. FXR not only triggers the release of bile acids for digestion, but also changes blood sugar levels and causes the body to burn some fats. Pharmaceutical companies aiming to treat obesity, diabetes, liver disease and other metabolic conditions have developed systemic drugs that activate FXR, turning on many pathways that control FXR. But these drugs affect several organs and come with side effects.

    Evans wondered whether switching on FXR only in the intestines — rather than the intestines, liver, kidneys and adrenal glands all at once — might have a different outcome. "When you eat, you have to quickly activate a series of responses all throughout the body," says Evans. "And the reality is that the very first responder for all this is the intestine." Michael Downes from Salk said: "It turns out that when we administer this orally, it only acts in the gut." Indians are losing the battle against the bulge with nearly 8 million women being obese as against 4.4 million men. Globally, 9.8% of men and 13.8% of women are obese.


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